This Playroom Is So Chic, Audrey Hepburn Could Have Designed It Herself

published Sep 4, 2021
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Credit: LivletStudio

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On the top floor of a 130-year-old, four-story Brooklyn brownstone is a spacious playroom with big windows where you can see the treetops and a cozy fireplace made for movie nights. The room has a distinct Parisian-chic vibe that radiates glamor and sweetness at the same time. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Katrina Peralta, owner of design studio LivletStudio and mother of 3-year-old Olivia, designed this playroom for her daughter with an eye for warm details and sensible, timeless design. The result is a room that any design-loving adult (ahem, me) would jump to call their own.

Katrina, her husband David, and Olivia live with Olivia’s caregiver and great-aunt, Sylvia, on the lower three floors of the fixer-upper brownstone, which is currently undergoing substantial renovations. The top floor is dedicated to Olivia and Sylvia, with a kitchenette and a spare bedroom. It’s a peaceful respite from all the hustle and bustle going on downstairs.

But it wasn’t ready-made with all this style. The room started out as a blank slate with two standout features — the beautiful windows and a century-old fireplace. With time and thoughtful decisions, the playroom became a space that the whole family loves spending time in.

Credit: LivletStudio

Two-toned paint opens the room

The walls take on a life of their own in Olivia’s playroom. One of the challenges in kids’ spaces is the low height of the furnishings. To draw the eye upwards, Katrina used a simple, two-toned pink and white motif that creates high impact without being overly distracting. “The easiest way to transform a kid’s space is with paint. It would be a completely different room if it were all white,” she says. 

Above the low toddler bed, where there was once a large blank wall, Katrina painted a black rainbow (one of Olivia’s great loves). The graphic approach and neutral palette keeps the look elegant, while still being playful enough to capture Olivia’s attention (and fills the wall in a cost-effective way!) 

The mantle also got a coat of black paint, which allows the television to blend into the wall when it’s turned off, and look like a built-in when turned on. These small touches are affordable and take little time, yet make all the difference. Painting is also a great way to incorporate trends (scalloped trim, anyone?) without investing too much. Katrina is already thinking ahead: “If we have a second child, maybe the pink changes color. The room will still be cute, even with a different paint color.” 

Credit: LivletStudio

Upgrade IKEA basics for a whole new look

Olivia, like many toddlers, loves pretend play. “She uses her play kitchen the most [out of all her toys]! She pretends to make lunch during the day,” Katrina laughs. Olivia’s kitchenette is an IKEA reno, complete with marble herringbone tile that David DIY’d two nights before Christmas one year, leather pulls, and touches like a mini cutting board and tiny hanging cups. Katrina added a mirror next to the kitchen, because Olivia also loves looking at herself while she plays. 

Her reading corner has a sweet Hello Kitty chair, just plush enough for her to cuddle into, and hanging shelves from IKEA. By stacking three shelves (at an affordable $15 apiece), you get the look of a larger shelving unit — not to mention the extra storage space. Even Olivia’s table and chairs have a fun silhouette. There are also adult-sized versions of the chairs that Katrina and her husband pull up when they come to have lunch in the playroom. 

Olivia makes full use of items in her playroom, even decor items, and often in unexpected ways. “The spotted pillow on the bed is her command center when she’s playing spaceship,” says Katrina. “She uses the dots as buttons on a dashboard!” When left to their own devices, kids are wildly imaginative, so more toys don’t necessarily equate to better play experiences. 

Credit: LivletStudio

A locked closet is THE organization secret for parents

Speaking of toys: Katrina is a firm believer in rotating toys in and out of the room to reduce clutter and keep kids engaged for longer. “It never takes more than ten minutes to clean the room, and it’s never more than [Olivia] can handle. At nighttime, I hand her the bins to help,” she says. To keep the toy storage feeling cohesive, Katrina painted the IKEA wall cabinet the same pink as the room, effectively disguising it when closed. Even within the cabinet, there are little color-coordinated crates that help contain the mess. 

For the overflow, a closet in the playroom is used to hold toys and clothes that aren’t in regular rotation. “It has a lock on it,” Katrina says, laughing. “She doesn’t even know her toys are in there! I swap toys out when she’s asleep.” Katrina recommends going as basic as possible with storage bins — you don’t want something so unique and specialized that it’ll go out of stock before you’re ready to purchase more (their bins are from Target). And the more similar in size and shape you can keep your storage containers, the easier it will be to maintain, especially when it comes to stacking. 

Credit: LivletStudio

Combine high and low to keep costs reasonable

Though much of the playroom is from IKEA — an attainable option for many budgets — Katrina splurged on some special touches, like an overhead light fixture from West Elm and layered rugs (the alphabet rug from Pottery Barn Kids is washable!). “Invest in the things that will last,” she advises. “You can be thrifty on things like bedding, which may get dirty pretty easily.” And when shopping, Katrina advises searching outside the kids’ section. You can often find affordable and interesting home goods in unexpected places that work just as well for a kids’ room as an adult room.

Leave the themes behind

As a former design director for WeWork, stylish coworking spaces that cater to entrepreneurs and remote employees, Katrina learned that the secret to long-lasting spaces is to avoid overly thematic motifs. “It’s not that it’s timeless. It does combine different eras,” she says. “It’s of no time.” In the playroom, for example, it’s not really possible to pinpoint exactly what influences the room, because it’s a mixture of so many things. “Because everything is a similar tonality and texture, it all works together,” Katrina adds.  

When it comes to trends, keep it all in perspective: “Trends can be fun, as long as you’re not spending too much on them,” Katrina says. “I call it the ‘red couch effect’ — we bought a red couch and three months later, we hated it. But if it makes you happy, why not!”